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FROM BORA BORA to ILO ILO

Written on: Friday December 21st, 2007

A journal entry from: ASIA PART II

Ilo Ilo City, Panay

Gula Residence

I am writing on the shore of the Sulu Bay. Lying here on Raymen beach with an old fashioned pen and paper. After several days in transit and R&R, Lionel an I have departed ways and I've joined my parents in Ilo Ilo City here on Panay province. My father has reunited with his best friend after 28 years and the past two days have been spent hearing stories of my father in all his glory during his bachelor days over well prepared meals large enough to feed a small country. Spent the weekend on the blindingly white shores of Boracay. Indeed, an extraordinary beach itself but hard to appreciate because of the throngs of tourists and the vendors that follow them.

The Island of Boracay... It was only a 'short' tricylce, 3hr over-crowded jeepney, 5-6hr private van hire and 6hr outrigger ferry ride away. We finally arrived in Caticlan, the jumping-off point to Boracay, shortly after midnight. There were no more boats crossing at this time of night. Fortunately for us, we had met a couple, Rito and Celia, along the way and Rito's uncle, who lives on Boracay, was able to arrange a private bangca to take the four of us across. The deal was sealed and we were off like stowaways into the darkness. He also managed to secure us a room at a lovely place, owned by a fellow Canadian, called Serge's Palace - the name alone is self explanatory. The next morning, we discovered Puka Beach along the Western tip of the island and from there hired a small pump-boat to take us around the island. The day excursion was memorable, but our snorkeling jaunt left us less-than-impressed. Proof of the harsh effects of the uncontrolled development ruining the marine ecosystem. But thanks to this mass tourism and over development, the choices when dining here are endless, and so, we feasted like royalty while burying our feet in the powdery, white sand and contributed towards the beach nightlife. Lionel left the next afternoon and I relocated further down the beach. Found my own nipa 'hut' at La Isla Bonita - something to better suit my budget now that I didn't have someone to cut the costs with in half. That evening, it poured down in skin-drenching torrents as I kicked it with the locals and chilled out at a hip reggae bar called Pat's.

I'm now back in Ilo Ilo and I am able to transcribe my chicken scratch from the beach post a breakfast of champions. The heat is sticky and the electric fan is barely doing its job. It's 9am, the neighbors are setting off fireworks and the roosters continue to disrupt any form of silence to be had. I continue to free myself of my western habits and rid myself of one toiletry item per day. However, my body is showing resistance and my allergies are constantly being aggravated by a combination of the pollution and humidity. Running showers, toilet paper, and freshly brewed coffee are luxuries to be missed. Yet, owning several house servants, a family driver and a comprehensive in-house karaoke system are the norm. You must learn to quickly adapt to the lack of everything and accept that this is the standard or some may say an above-average way of life and just when you think you remember what life here is like, you are reminded on an entirely separate level of how hard the knocks really are and how different of a hand you were dealt. And so, with that being said, it's time to revitalize my spirit and cool down with a bucket of water. Before I know it, it'll be time to eat again.

Missing all your smiles and sending the warmest of wishes xxx